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Circuit Breaker

circuitbreaker is to Lightning what firewalls are to the internet.

It allows nodes to protect themselves from being flooded with htlcs. With circuitbreaker a maximum to the number of in-flight htlcs can be set on a per-peer basis. Known and trusted peers for example can be assigned a higher maximum, while a new channel from a previously unseen node may be limited to only a few pending htlcs.

Furthermore it is possible to apply rate limits to the number of forwarded htlcs. This offers protection against DoS/spam attacks that rely on large numbers of fast-resolving htlcs. Rate limiting is implemented with a Token bucket. In configuration the minimum interval between htlcs and a burst size can be specified.

Large numbers of htlcs are also required for probing channel balances. Reducing the information leakage through probing could be another reason to put in place a rate limit for untrusted peers.

Why are limits needed?

In today's Lighting Network payments are routed via a series of hops. Each of those hops will incur a cost for forwarding that payment. While the htlc of an hop is in-flight, the associated amount is locked in the hop's outgoing channel. Those funds cannot be used for another purpose. This can be considered to be an opportunity cost.

Furthermore each channel has a limited number of htlc 'slots'. The current maximum is 483 slots. This means that regardless of channel capacity, there can never be more than 483 htlcs pending. With large channels in particular, it can happen that all slots are occupied while only a fraction of the channel capacity is used. In that case the whole channel is considered to be locked. The duration of the lock can vary from a few seconds to as long as 2 weeks or even more.

When the payment is completed successfully, each hop will collect a routing fee. But depending on the length of the lock and the htlc amounts, this may be far from sufficient to cover the costs.

This is where circuitbreaker comes in. It puts up a defense around that valuable channel liquidity and helps to keep the locked coins at work to maximize routing revenue.

How to use


  • go 1.13
  • lnd version 0.11.0-beta or above.


circuitbreaker by default reads its configuration from ~/.circuitbreaker/circuitbreaker.yaml. An example configuration can be found here


  • Clone this repository
  • cd circuitbreaker/
  • go install
  • Execute circuitbreaker with the correct command line flags to connect to lnd. See circuitbreaker --help for details.


  • This software is alpha quality. Use at your own risk and be careful in particular on mainnet.
  • The interfaces on lnd aren't optimized for this purpose. Therefore the use of a combination of different endpoints is required. This may lead to certain corner cases.
  • circuitbreaker is currently unaware of htlcs that are already in flight when it is started.


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